Last month teams from across Europe travelled to Kent to take part in the inaugural European Powerchair Football Association Development tournament.
Austria, Germany, a youth team from Ireland and Kent’s own Sevenoaks Powerchair FC took part in the event. This new tournament has been designed to provide inexperienced European nations with involvement in foreign competition as well as provide training and education on coaching, refereeing and classification.
Each nation resided in the accessible accommodation at Valence School in Westerham with the competition taking place at Sevenoaks School. Prior to the tournament's opening match each team had an opportunity to train and finalise their tactical plans for the following day.
Hosts Sevenoaks PFC, representing England, opened the event against Germany. Oaks showed their experience against the new nation and finished 8-0 victors, before the young Irish team defended resolutely against a bold Austria team in a 0-0 draw. The first afternoon fixture brought Sevenoaks and the eager Austrian team together. A cagey start from both teams was broken by Sevenoaks, who had a clinical edge over their rivals. Taking their chances and defending well they finished with a 4-0 win, damaging the Austrians' hopes of a top two finish and guaranteeing Sevenoaks a place in the final the following day. Ireland followed up their goalless draw with another clean sheet, this time with a 7-0 victory, placing them on equal points with Austria.
In the next game Ireland and Sevenoaks played a highly competitive match. Ireland took the lead before Oaks pegged them back. Ireland scored a second midway through the second half, with Sevenoaks failing to fashion any real chances to equalise, condemning the home team to a 2-1 loss. Consequently Ireland finished top of the group with Sevenoaks in second place, the result condemning Austria to third place even before their comprehensive 12-0 victory over Germany in the final group game.
The penultimate game of the competition saw Germany and Austria play in the third and fourth place play-off. Keen to finish on a high, Austria dominated their inexperienced neighbours and cruised to an 8-0 victory.
The final was an Anglo-Irish affair, with the hosts keen to avenge their defeat 24 hours earlier. Another close contest ensued with Sevenoaks taking a 1-0 lead into the half time break. Ireland did not back down and equalised midway through the second half. The game appeared to be heading to a penalty shootout, before a set piece routine with three minutes to go saw Sevenoaks score to take a 2-1 lead. Ireland piled on the pressure in an attempt to equalise and came close to doing so. However, the Sevenoaks defence held firm to claim the title of EPFA Development Event Champions 2016!
The event was fortunate to feature a special guest, with Kent FA’s Chairman Barry Bright presenting Sevenoaks with the winner’s trophy before drawing teams for the upcoming EPFA Champions Cup, taking place in Denmark in October.